Millions still go without insurance if law passes

One of the biggest misconceptions about President Obama’s health care overhaul isn’t who the law will cover, but rather who it won’t.

If it survives Supreme Court scrutiny, the landmark overhaul will expand coverage to about 30 million uninsured people, according to government figures. But an estimated 26 million U.S. residents will remain without coverage — a population that’s roughly the size of Texas and includes illegal immigrants and those who can’t afford to pay out-of-pocket for health insurance.

“Many people think that this health care law is going to cover everyone, and it’s not,” says Nicole Lamoureux, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, which represents about 1,200 clinics nationally.

To be sure, it’s estimated that the Affordable Care Act would greatly increase the number of insured Americans. The law has a provision that requires most Americans to be insured or face a tax penalty. It also calls for an expansion of Medicaid, a government-funded program that covers the health care costs of low-income and disabled Americans. Additionally, starting in 2014, there will be tax credits to help middle-class Americans buy coverage.

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision this month on whether to uphold the law completely or strike down parts or all of it. If it survives, about 93 percent of all non-elderly, legal U.S. residents will be covered by 2016. That’s up from 82 percent this year.

Still, millions of illegal immigrants won’t qualify for coverage. This population will account for roughly 26 percent of those who will remain uninsured, according to Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

And many legal U.S. residents will go without insurance, too. About 36 percent of the population that remains uninsured will qualify for Medicaid but won’t sign up for various reasons. Others likely will make too much money to qualify for assistance but be unable to afford coverage.

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